Friday, August 10, 2018

Activist Librarian

Laing's resolution as it appears in the Faculty Meeting Minutes, 1945We started this blog way back in September 2009. Our first blog post was on Naked Lunch, and we were excited to see it get a few dozen hits over the course of a month. Since then, we have blogged 872 times, and last week our total page views shot over 500,000. We saw it coming, and about six weeks ago, we started a betting pool among library staff: the closest guess to the date we hit half a million would win a blog post in their honor. We had a tie, both Julie McIntyre in Library Acquisitions and Joe Montibello in the Digital Library Technology Group guessed August 2nd. Today's post is in their honor.

For Julie and Joe, we look back at a time when Assistant Librarian Alexander Laing took steps to make Dartmouth a more inclusive, open environment. For many years, Dartmouth had a quota on how many Jewish students it would admit. It was a policy that many people on campus found abhorrent but one that was supported by President Ernest Hopkins. When Hopkins announced his retirement, Alexander Laing tried to take advantage of the moment to nullify the policy as John Dickey assumed the presidency. In a resolution brought before the faculty on November 26, 1945, he asked the faculty for something that sounds so simple:
To reaffirm its respect for that portion of the Charter of Dartmouth College which forbids the exclusion, by the Trustees of the College, of 'any Person of any religious denomination whatsoever from free and equal liberty and advantage of Education or from any of the liberties and privileges or immunities of the said College on account of his or their speculative sentiments in Religion and of his or their being of religious profession different from the said Trustees of the said Dartmouth College.'
The resolution went on to affirm the right of the College to assign quotas for geographical distribution or legacy students, but reject any that were based on religion or race. But it was not so simple to the faculty. They were unwilling to impinge on the new President's authority, and punted on the resolution. In a classic bureaucratic move, they referred it to the Committee on Admissions and the Freshman Year.

The full story is a complicated one. You can read more about the resolution and its reception in Laura Barrett's 2017 MALS thesis, "Defining Dartmouth: Exclusion and Inclusion at Dartmouth College 1917-2017." To see the resolution, ask for the Minutes of the Faculty Meeting, Dean of Faculty Records, Box 4227. You'll find it on page 112.

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